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Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas
Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas

This page is background information, last updated in May 2002 and still available for reference. For the latest on the Special Session on Children, please go to the Special Session index.

Audrey Hepburn's work for the world's children honoured
© UNICEF/HQ02-0137/Donna DeCesare

(Left-right) UNICEF Regional Ambassador and chess champion Anatoly Karpov, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his wife Nane Annan with 'The Spirit of Audrey' sculpture.

© UNICEF/HQ02-0134/Donna DeCesare

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte.

© UNICEF/HQ02-0136/Donna DeCesare

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore.

7 May 2002 - A seven-foot-tall bronze statue of Audrey Hepburn was unveiled today in a star-studded ceremony at the James P. Grant Plaza at UNICEF headquarters in New York to commemorate Ms. Hepburn's tireless work as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

To most of the world, Ms. Hepburn is known and loved for her Academy Award-winning performance in Roman Holiday and for her memorable roles in Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Nun's Story and countless other movies. However, children in the developing world knew her as an exceptional advocate for their cause.

"We are here to celebrate the life of our friend Audrey Hepburn and her second and greatest career as a UNICEF Ambassador," said Roger Moore, who opened the ceremony. "And what a career it was."

Ms. Hepburn became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF in 1988. In the five years in that capacity, she traveled incessantly to Ethiopia, Guatemala, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand and many other countries drawing attention to the plight of children. Ms. Hepburn testified before several US Congressional committees on hunger. She met with presidents, kings and prime ministers to urge them to improve the lives of children around the world.

She herself was no stranger to suffering. As a child growing up in Nazi-occupied Netherlands, she and her mother nearly starved to death before escaping to the safety of the UK.

"'I was a malnourished child in the post-war years. I was one of the beneficiaries. I've known UNICEF all of my life,'" Mr. Moore recalled Ms. Hepburn telling him many years ago before he himself became a UNICEF Ambassador.

Harry Belafonte, also a UNICEF Ambassador, said, "Not many people in the world who obtain celebrity really commit themselves to trying to make a difference in the world of turmoil, and I think that Audrey Hepburn was the best example of what to do with herself, and I loved her dearly, and I am very glad to be here to celebrate."

The statue, created by renowned artist and sculptor John Kennedy, was commissioned by Ms. Hepburn's long-time companion, Robert Wolders. Entitled "The Spirit of Audrey", it depicts a tall, slender woman holding the hand of a child - evoking countless occasions on Ms. Hepburn's travels to some of the world's most disadvantaged and ravaged spots. The unveiling, originally scheduled for last year, was postponed after the September 11 tragedy.

"How appropriate that it will stand here in the plaza outside the organisation that inspired her," Mr. Moore said.

The commemoration began with the Young People's Chorus of New York and was attended by several hundred people - including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his wife, Nane Annan, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors Harry Belafonte, Mia Farrow, Vendela Thommessen, Anatoli Karpov and numerous other celebrities.

Ms. Hepburn died on 20 January 1993 of colon cancer.

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'The Spirit of Audrey Hepburn'

View a photoessay: 'The Spirit of Audrey Hepburn.'